Colorado Conference---catharsis/divorce/sex

Aaron Gerow gerow
Mon Nov 6 02:32:16 EST 2000

Markus asked,

>My question, and this would be an interesting thing to discuss on KineJapan,
>has to do with the way that discussions of the wonders of Nikkatsu Roman
>Porno and pink eiga never---a word I take seriously---consider the
>filmmaking in tandem with the reception context. When people point out how,
>with the disintegration of the studio system, the pink film becomes the
>training ground for moves into the mainstream (and the survival of countless
>directors, technicians and cameramen who otherwise wouldn't be able to work
>in film), it makes sense to me. However, when discussions turn to the
>progressive politics of the films, or their worthiness as art, what does it
>mean to ignore what's going on on ground level, in the theaters? How is this
>not a looping between the production and reception contexts, one big
>self-love fest?

Much of the problem is in an impressionist based film criticism dominant 
in Japan that only looks at one point of reception: the critic.

Markus's question deserves more of a pursuit, but let me just add another 
issue to the problem: industry.  Even those who praise Roman Poruno or 
pink film as a valuable training ground rarely sit down and consider the 
industrial conditions for all this (beyond, as with regard to Nikkatsu, 
expressing a nostalgia about it being the last bastion of a program 
picture studio system).  

But when Zeze Takahisa came to my Meigaku class to talk, some of these 
issues did come up in relation to Hamano in our discussion afterwards.  
First, it should be pointed out that pink films are essentially produced 
on a subcontractor basis.  Essentially, the company gives the director 
about 3 million yen and expects him or her to deliver the film with that 
(I don't know the specifics about developing and other peripheral costs). 
 Thus this is not a studio system where the studio makes up budget and 
then produces it in house (this is a major difference with Roman Poruno 
and again reminds us Roman Poruno and contemporary pink films are not the 
same); and there is no real producer system (it is almost an ironic 
epitome of the director system: I'm reminded of Shochiku's contract with 
Kinugasa Teinosuke in the 1920s for something similar in Japanese film 
history).  If the director ends up spending less than 3 million in making 
the film, he or she pockets that amount.  Zeze noted this in relation to 
a shift in his films from more group to more individual oriented 
narratives: the former were just too costly and it was he, not the 
studio, who was bearing the loss; the latter were just cheaper and thus 
the shift was partially a measure of financial necessity.

Given this situation, one would imagine that pink directors would 
incorporate themselves, or create their own production companies, for 
various reasons (tax reasons, debt indemnity, etc.). But many like Zeze, 
who himself confesses a lack of business acumen, do not do that.  Hamano, 
however, has done that and thus reflects a different attitude towards 
production as well as different industrial conditions.  I don't think we 
need to buy into the stereotype of artists unconcerned with business, but 
at least in Zeze's mind, Hamano is a shewd business player who makes sure 
she is on good financial standing.  On the one hand, this can ensure the 
kind of industrial "freedom" she spoke of, but on the other, it clearly 
ties her in with the financial interests of the industry--i.e., to make 
films for mostly rural men to "jack off" to.  Perhaps her incorporated 
status can allow for a power to express her own vision, but do remember 
she is still only a subcontractor, not the contractor.  Her willingness 
to use different names for herself depending on the company (so that the 
same name does not emblazon the releases of competing pink film 
companies) was also cited by Zeze to exemplify her willingness to work 
with the companies.

More research is needed before we can judge Hamano's industrial status, 
but I think it is also worth noting in terms of reception that Hamano has 
not been subject to resistance on the level of reception that I know of.  
Zeze and the Shitenno, however, were, as many rural theaters and their 
customers complained about their films--perhaps because they were not 
easy to "jack off" to.

I think we need to think about these issues some more before accepting 
Hamano's self-depiction as a feminist filmmaker.

Aaron Gerow
Associate Professor
International Student Center
Yokohama National University
79-1 Tokiwadai
Hodogaya-ku, Yokohama 240-8501
E-mail: gerow at
Phone: 81-45-339-3170
Fax: 81-45-339-3171

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